PLA frogs with and without cooling fan (experiment)

by CreativeTools, published

PLA frogs with and without cooling fan (experiment) by CreativeTools Dec 13, 2013


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Two of MorenaP's treefrogs 3D printed with and without the cooling fan.
In a similar manner as we did with the PLA blue frogs earlier, this time we wanted to visualise by comparison the importance of the cooling fan when 3D printing with PLA plastic.
For this purpose we borrowed MorenaP's popular treefrog for it's cuteness and overhang shape of it's belly.
The right frog was 3D printed with the cooling fan turned on and came out perfect from the 3D printer. For the left one we turned off the cooling fan. The result looks far from good even though it was exactly the same 3D model and 3D print file. The only difference is that the PLA plastic was left to cool by itself without the fan blowing cool air onto the 3D printed surface.
This results in unwanted distortions of the plastic shape after it is deposited by the 3D print nozzle. In other words, having a cooling fan makes all the difference!
If you want to try, disable the cooling fan by creating a profile in MakerBot MakerWare. Then edit it and make the following changes:

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if you print it solid with no fan, it will turn out great, and have a good weight ratio to size so it won't feel "cheap". hehe.

I love this experiment, and I am so glad you did it. This really proves that models with overhangs need cooling. But I don't think "cooling = better prints" is universal. For example, models that are flat without overhangs. Warping is a big issue when printing a flat panel. I wonder if they would warp less with the fan off. Food for thought, and perhaps another experiment :)

Thanks for your comment. We did this mostly to visualise the overall principle that PLA prints need cooling. Nevertheless it is totally correct that the right amount of cooling is necessary for best results.

We believe that future advances in polymers for 3D printing as well as improvements in slicing software will solve most issues.

I printed this last night and had similar problems on my Robo3D, though my fan was going full-blast. What temperature are you printing the PLA at? I noticed the flow was better at 190 for most prints (which turn out fine), but this one started to warp as it printed.

i am thinking what will be if we change the speed of the cooling fan lower or higher , with your experiment it show that the room temperature can change the quality of the print so what about if we a add fan speed controller .

If the climate is too hot, you probably just need a better fan. Try placing a desktop fan in front of the printer at full blow, and see if that changes the print quality :)

The important thing is that you cool the layer enough before you start with the next one. I don't think there is any harm in cooling too much, So unless your'e thinking about the noise level, a fan controller probably won't do much.

Does the fan on your machine cool the print or the extruder? In other words, is it pointed at the end where the filament comes out, or does it blow across the hot part of the extruder? Or is it a larger fan just blowing on the entire bed? Inquiring minds want to know!

The fan we referred to cools the 3D printed part and not the heatsink in front of the extruder. The fan you find in front of the 3D printer sucks cool air and blows it into the heatsink which in turn cools the top part of the extruder mechanism, thus keeping it cool so that the plastic filament can enter the extruder tube without melting before it finally melts where it is suppose to happen - at the tips of the extruder through the nozzle.

The PLA cooling fan on a MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer is placed to the left of the extruder. It is a radial fan which sucks air from the side and blows it through an L-shaped square tube right on to the area just below the extruder, thus cooling and hardening the melted PLA plastic at the same moment it comes out of the nozzle. In other words, it is not a generic fan aimed at the whole build platform.

We added a new image to the gallery to clarify which fan is which. http://bit.ly/1bOOQ7Ihttp://bit.ly/1bOOQ7I